Scotland’s most vulnerable children are to benefit from improved support after MSPs tonight backed the Children’s Hearings (Scotland) Bill.
The Bill will secure better outcomes for children and young people by improving their rights. It will also create a strengthened, modernised and streamlined system, introducing standards that will, for the first time, deliver national consistency and lead to better informed decisions.
One of the key changes will be the creation of a new national body, Children’s Hearings Scotland, whose National Convener will be responsible for setting standards, monitoring their implementation, and for the recruitment, support and training of Scotland’s 2,500 local panel members.
The Bill also ensures that the key fundamental principles of protecting children’s welfare, set out by Lord Kilbrandon when the Children’s Hearings system was first established in the 1960s, remain at its heart.
Adam Ingram, Minister for Children and Early Years, said:
“I am delighted that Parliament has voted through these reforms that will ensure our most vulnerable children receive the protection and support they need. Our unique, welfare-based Children’s Hearings system needs to be ready to deal with the youngsters who need its support, through compulsory measures of care and protection, consistently across the country.
“This system – in which local lay people make decisions to improve the lives of local young people – remains the best way of offering support, but children and families today are facing significantly different challenges and circumstances from when it was created.
“Thanks to today’s decision we can expect a modernised system fit for the future, which builds on the principles set down more than 40 years ago.”
Anne Houston, Chief Executive, CHILDREN 1ST, commented:
“CHILDREN 1ST believes that today, we have achieved something of real significance for the most vulnerable children and young people in our society. The Scottish Government and the Scottish Parliament have worked closely with children’s organisations like ours to put the voice of the child at the centre of the children’s hearing system.
“We have succeeded in reaching a consensus on many issues and the result is that we have renewed the ethos of Scotland’s unique approach to addressing the needs and deeds of children and young people. Many measures passed today will ensure that children and young people will be supported to participate more fully in decisions that affect their lives and life chances. CHILDREN 1ST considers that this will lead to much better outcomes for many children in Scotland.”
The Children’s Hearings system is Scotland’s unique approach to dealing with children and young people in trouble or at risk. The system was created in the 1960s in response to a report from Lord Kilbrandon after it was recognised that young people appearing before the juvenile courts, whether they had committed offences or were in need of care and protection, had common needs. The system is founded on the principle of local people from the children’s own communities making decisions about how best to address children’s needs.
There are more than 2,500 volunteer panel members who are recruited through an annual national campaign supported by local campaigns. Panel members are carefully selected and undergo extensive and continuous training.
In 2009-10, 42,532 children were referred to the children’s reporter. Over the same period 43,614 children’s hearings were held.
The Scottish Government’s innovative Engage for Education site allows users to read blogs from Ministers, post comments and get involved in workshops on issues relating to education.